Not the best way to start off the New Year from the Gunners, as we barely managed to drag ourselves over the finish line yesterday. Playing against a very average Newcastle side, one would have expected a comfortable win at home; however it was more reminiscent of the 4-0 loss to Southampton than anything else. We were dominated all over the pitch, and were it not for the heroics of Petr Cech in goal, then the scoreline would certainly be very different.
Ultimately, we picked up the three points and that is what matters for a title chase. Close, scrappy wins are to be expected over the course of the Premier League season. But what is tough to explain is why the entire team seems to switch off almost simultaneously at times. A couple of players could have a bad day, and that is fine. But when almost the entire starting XI makes simple errors and hands the initiative to the opposition, then it is a matter of some concern.
Here are our player ratings for yesterday’s game:
Petr Cech – 7.5
MotM. The veteran keeper kept us in the game with a series of top quality saves in the first half, despite being let down by the defence too often. Needless to say, without Cech we would not have won this game.
Hector Bellerin – 6.5
Started the game at full blast, and was a real threat in the opening stages as he rampaged forward down the right wing. Later on, his crossing became much more erratic and he failed to make an impact.
Per Mertesacker – 6.5
Okay game, good in possession but nothing spectacular.
Laurent Koscielny – 7.0
Made a couple of big blunders in the first half, including one that almost led to a Wijnaldum goal. Made up for it with a well-taken finish to give us the win.
Nacho Monreal – 6.5
Made several good crosses when on the attack, but was overrun defensively by Newcastle. Far too often he was outnumbered and was provided with no support. This is where the absence of Alexis Sanchez makes itself felt.
Mathieu Flamini – 6.5
Flamini was certainly full of aggression and willing to put in the tackles, but ultimately it did not have too much impact on the game. For all his efforts, he was not really effective cover for the defence and this continues to be our weakest area in the absence of Coquelin.
Aaron Ramsey – 6.75
Grew into the game and had a late burst of brilliance, but was otherwise below standards. His defensive abilities were called into question several times over the course of the game, and Ramsey found himself stranded far too often when Newcastle were on the attack.
Mesut Ozil – 7.0
Our best attacker by far. Had his moments of brilliance and was always a danger from set-pieces. It was a dull game compared to his usual form however.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – 5.0
Poor. The Englishman has always had the promise of something more but fails to deliver on that when given the chance to do so. Yesterday was the perfect example. His pace made him a real threat and he occasionally found the space to make a good run, but far too often he was wasteful in possession or simply unable to make a good play. He needs to develop his decision making and it seems like Arsenal might not be the best place for him to do so.
Especially considering how much the team improved after the substitution of Joel Campbell, maybe it’s time for the Ox to go out on loan next season.
Theo Walcott – 6.5
Walcott is working on his poaching skills and that is fine, however in games like this he simply vanishes when we don’t have the ball. Theo prefers to wait and make the run into the box at the last moment, which works well when Arsenal are dominating possession. If we are on the back foot however, Walcott does not track back or adjust in any way and becomes dead weight far too often.
Olivier Giroud – 6.5
A decent performance from the Frenchman, all things considered. Supply was poor for most of the game, and Giroud did his best to get to every ball that was put near him.